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3 Types of Focus and Three Exercises to Strengthen Your Focused Mind
It’s no secret that the ability to focus is essential to our success. If our attention skills are strong, we can perform well on required tasks. If they are stunted, we perform poorly. Daniel Goleman is one of my favorite authors. His first two books explore the vital connection between emotional intelligence and transformational leadership: “Emotional Intelligence” and “Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence.” His most recent book is “Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence.”
In the December issue of Mindful Magazine, Daniel discusses three types of focus that we all require to enjoy a connected, fulfilling life: Inner focus, Other focus, and Outer focus. Leaders especially require strength in all three areas to achieve their goals.
Inner Focus centers around our intuitions and guiding values. In meditative practice, the strength of our intuition is guided by what is known as our “third-eye” chakra (or energy center), which rests in the center of our forehead. Our two eyes are REceptive – they take in information that is right in front of us. Our third eye is PERceptive – it takes in information that is beyond what is right in front of us. Combining our receptive and perceptive vision helps us to be attuned to our relationships and surroundings. There are many meditative exercises we can do to strengthen our Inner Focus.
Other Focus strengthens our ability to be connected to other people. It requires a strong sense of empathy and compassion, and a desire to understand the perspectives and situations of those around us. Other Focus shifts our focus from ourselves to other people.
Outer Focus equips us with the ability to navigate the larger world. Those with Outer Focus understand that we can not operate in a bubble, and that we are connected to something much larger than ourselves.
“A leader tuned out of his internal world will be rudderless; one blind to the world of others will be clueless; those indifferent to the larger systems within which they operate will be blindsided.” ~Daniel Goleman
Strengthening Our Focus
Here are three 5-minute exercises from Mindful Magazine that will help you explore the experience of a focused mind.
1: Focus on what’s in front of you. Take a relaxed, seated position. Locate something in your field of vision and start focusing on it. As thoughts carry you away – including thoughts about the object itself – return to placing your bare attention on it. Now let your gaze be looser. Still take in the object but also a little bit more of what’s around it. Then tighten your focus on the object again. Notice the power you have to choose what to center your attention on.
2. Peripheral vision. This is a technique used by emergency workers to counteract tunnel vision. Sit quietly. Pay attention not to what’s in front of you but to the periphery of your vision; the sides, up and down. As your attention naturally comes back to center, gently bring it back to the periphery. Repeat this a few times, for about 5 minutes.
3: Something to contemplate. Focus is not purely a visual phenomenon. It’s tremendously beneficial to bring your focus to the thoughts and emotions that arise in your mind and body. Start by choosing a person you admire and contemplate their good qualities for a few minutes. If your mind strays, return to focusing on their good qualities. Then choose one quality and appreciate it for a little while. Notice whether this focusing results in good feelings in you. You can try this with negative qualities as well to determine how much your focus impacts you emotionally and physically.
Strengthening the Attention Muscle
Attention and focus works very much like a muscle. Use it poorly and it can atrophy; continuously strengthen it and it grows. We live in a world that compromises our ability to be fully engaged and attentive. Whether it’s too many competing priorities, social media platforms, or never-ending technology notifications, we are now required to make a conscientious focused effort on attention.
My hope is that this column – and my work – equips you with strategies that empower you to live your best life and reach your personal and organizational potential. It’s been rewarding for me to see the transformation in my coaching clients as I have incorporated my years of personal meditative and wellness practices into our coaching work. As their mindfulness has increased, the personal and business results have been extraordinary. I welcome the opportunity to create similar transformations for you.
Boxed In? 4 Ways to Transform Your Corner into a Doorway
One of my favorite books when I was growing up was “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” With the stroke of a purple crayon, Harold designs the life he imagines. When he wants to go for a walk, he draws a moonlit path. When he’s hungry, he draws himself a lunch. When he becomes scared of his own illustrated dragon, he creates an ocean and a sailboat to escape just in time.
Harold uses his creative thinking to escape from life’s corners that constrain him.
People with big vision often find themselves painted into a corner. We set upon our path, often underestimating or unaware of the obstacles that may get in our way of progress. Or, we over-commit, and find ourselves completely overwhelmed with what we have promised to others. Wouldn’t it be great if we could draw ourselves an ocean and a sailboat, and simply sail away to a far-away land?
We can’t do that, but when our backs are up against the wall, we can create additional paths to lead us out of our corners. We can transform our corners into a doorway.
Here are 4 strategies I use to get myself out of the corners I’ve painted myself into:
1: Admit to the Over-Commit. Are you prone to over-scheduling? This happens when we haven’t clearly defined our priorities, and when we forget that “NO” is a complete sentence. I coach several business owners who have had difficulty focusing in on their priorities, which leads them to saying yes to too many commitments that don’t align with their goals. We work with a system designed specifically to align weekly tasks to goals, and we only work with a few goals at a time. Each week, I hold them accountable for those specific goals and tasks, and “force” them to say NO to non-essential commitments.
2: Think Differently. One of my favorite business books is “Decisive” by Dan Heath. So often, we narrow our decision-making process to two options. Only 29% of organizations look at more than two options (yes or no alternatives) when making decisions. The “whether-or-not” mindset limits our ability to look at creative options. Objectively evaluate your sticky situation, and brainstorm options to help you get through it. Think “and” instead of “or.” Enlist others for new ideas since fresh perspectives usually provide the best solutions. To quote a very smart colleague, “It’s hard to see the complete picture when you’re in the frame.”
3: Ask for Help. Can you delegate any of the tasks related to your obligations? Or perhaps offload a commitment entirely to someone else? “Delegating and elevating” is an essential strategy for busy leaders who are trying to get out of day-to-day activities. Admitting we’re in over our head and need help is often the only way we’ll get it.
4: Suck it Up for the Short-Term – Then Change. Admit you’ve painted yourself into a corner and deal with it. A close friend of mine is a very successful executive coach. She planted a lot of seeds for some high-potential coaching programs over the last 18 months, and now they are all sprouting at once. She’s completely over-committed. She asked for advice on how she can “keep this pace.” The answer is that she can’t. She’s going to crash and burn if she doesn’t correct her course. To quote one of my closest, longest-time advisors who is helping me build out my 3-year life plan, “If running a mile takes 7 minutes, and you try to do it in 4, you get hurt, fail, and then can’t even run the 7 minute mile you could the day before.” He’s helping me pace myself in a healthy way so that I can actually meet my goals. However, there are times when we have to endure a grueling pace to get to the other side. When this happens, acknowledge it – but plan a recharge. Knowing that relief is in sight can help us manage the pressure.
Everyone finds themselves painted into a corner at one time or another. The important thing is that we learn from our situation, and put safeguards in place to ensure we deliver on our promises, stay healthy, and minimize the chances of it happening again.
So to recap:
1. Admit to the over-commit.
2. Think differently.
3. Ask for help.
4. Plan a re-charge.
Life’s a marathon – not a sprint!
The Two Questions You Need to Answer When Faced with Indecision
A client is currently interviewing potential project management partners. This is a big decision. She intends to delegate all project management tasks. She is expecting meticulous reporting and financial oversight, and a strong representation of her company’s brand. She has no interest in micromanaging.
There aren’t many options, due to the size of her projects. Her projects are a bit too large for solopreneur project managers, but a bit too small for most of the larger management firms. She’s narrowed her choices to three vendors.
One of her minority partners is leaning towards the least expensive option. She has a lot of hesitation because this vendor does not seem to be detail-oriented. In their initial meeting, he stated that he tracks everything old-school, using pen and paper. He has a lot of experience but hasn’t embraced some technologies & processes that newer firms employ to manage & run projects. This vendor doesn’t align with how my client runs her business.
Another vendor is more expensive up-front, but has an outstanding system and developed infrastructure for managing projects. As my client continues to grow, this company could keep pace with her growth. My client definitely prefers this option.
We were discussing the conversation she needs to have with her partner. I reminded her that all business decisions tie back to one thing: core values. When we are evaluating anyone that will have any connection to our business (employee, partner, customer, vendor), we need to scrutinize if they can negatively impact our brand in any way. How do they align with our core value system, which is our organizational moral compass?
Seth Godin says that “we get the culture we deserve.” Every day we must wrestle with which corners we cut, and what type of culture we build.
Every decision we make is tied to our culture, and the culture we select will drive all of our choices going forward.
As the leader, we need to say, “we’re doing it this way because this is the way it will get us where we need to go.”
So, when you are faced with indecision, ask yourself these two questions:
How does this option align with our core value system?
How does this option align with the culture I am building?
Remember, we get the culture we deserve.
How to Manage The Three Types of Haters In Your Life
Haters. We all have them, quietly circling around us like vultures, waiting for us to fail. If we pay attention them, if we empower them and let them know they impact us, our minds can trick us into thinking that we will actually fail.
I’ve identified the three types of haters that live on the periphery of our lives. Acknowledging that they are there, and committing to the two suggestions I will share with you, will minimize their impact on you. In fact, they may even make you stronger!
The Obvious Hater
The obvious haters are people that just don’t like you. They know it, you know it, their friends & your friends know it. For whatever reason, they just don’t get you. No matter what you do, you won’t change their mind. And you know what? It’s fine. It’s no big deal. Not everyone has to like you, and not everyone will like you. Trying to win over the obvious hater is a futile effort. Why would you try? Perhaps your ego doesn’t like the idea that not everyone likes you. This is something you will have to accept. I’ve always taught our sons, “We don’t go where we aren’t wanted.” There are too many people in the world that do get you, that see your value, that appreciate the gifts you bring to so many. Focus on them.
The Under-the-Radar Hater (The Frienemy)
The under-the-radar haters are people that may act like they like you – to you and to others – but they really don’t. Perhaps they are jealous, or they consider you threatening in some way to their own success. They may publicly support you, but you know differently. It may be your instincts telling you the truth, or it may be past conversations & experiences you’ve had with these people that showed their true colors. Either way, you know what’s what. You know where you truly stand with them, even if others think otherwise.
For these haters, who I like to call Frienemies (people that show up as friends but really aren’t), always remember where you stand. Never lower yourself to their level, so always act professional and respectful. But know the truth, and for your own well-being, you must live according to the truth.
The Conflicted Hater
“Hater” may be too strong of a term in this case. The conflicted hater may be someone who has been in your life for a long time, or perhaps came into your life as a result of a specific circumstance. You have a strong, trust-based bond, and you’ve always had each other’s backs. However, as you’ve both grown and evolved, perhaps you’ve gone in separate directions. I’ve seen this happen when one friend has lost a lot of weight, and new activities, people, & experiences come into their lives. The other friend doesn’t quite know where she fits in. She doesn’t know how to react to the new version of her friend. Or perhaps one friend has recovered from a difficult life crisis (a death, an illness, a divorce), and is thriving again. Her friend may not know how to find joy in her friend’s life because she may not be in the same place. In business, perhaps one is enjoying a lot of success, and her friend doesn’t know how to manage that. Personal change & growth is hard on a relationship that has been steady and static for a long period of time.
In these circumstances, it is important to consider the history you’ve shared, and work to preserve the friendship. Our friends who have been with us through thick and thin are treasures. Those relationships are not disposable. They are the threads of the tapestries that weave around our hearts, our souls, and spirits.
The Two Rules of Engagement for The Three Types of Haters
Two rules of engagement apply to all three types of haters:
1: You are in control of you. You can only control yourself and your reactions. You can not control the feelings, thoughts, or actions of another person. You can not make someone like you, or make someone happy for you. You alone determine how much these haters influence your life. They do not decide that. You decide that. How much are you empowering your haters?
2. Always choose compassion. Every moment of every day, we can choose compassion, and our haters need it more than anyone else. Those that have hate, resentment, contempt, and jealousy in their hearts are in pain. These feelings stem from hurt that they have endured. Somewhere along the way on their journeys, they have been scarred. They have been made to feel that they are not enough. Those people in our lives that get pleasure from the pain or failure of others are deeply in need of love, healing, & compassion. Plus, forgiveness of others is the greatest gift we can give ourselves, because it frees us to love fully.
Remember that the way others respond to us is not a reflection of us in any way. It is a reflection of how they feel about themselves, and how they engage with the world around them. When we know that the daggers that others throw at us are coming from a place of pain, we can deflect them with compassion. Every day, we can choose compassion over hate.
4 Ways Perfection is Our Enemy and 4 Strategies to Embrace Imperfection
One of the questions I’m constantly asked is, “Marissa how do you get so much done?” Admittedly I move at a brisk pace. I don’t really have a choice, because I have a lot going on. However, we all do. We all have too much to do and not enough time. We are all somewhat controlled by both the blessing and the curse of our digital devices, which allow us to be accessible & on 24/7.
One of my secrets, however, is that I embrace the idea of imperfection. I will never be perfect. This doesn’t mean that I don’t give 100% effort, or that I’m satisfied with mediocrity. On the contrary, I tend to lean the other way. I set very high standards for myself, and strive to exceed the expectations of those that depend on me. However, I’ve also learned to recognize when I’ve crossed over into the dangerous zone of “perfection obsession,” and I’ve trained myself to embrace that “almost perfect” is usually acceptable.
One of my favorite business models is the Lean Start-Up Model. Rather than having every business element locked in place and etched in stone prior to launching an idea, this model allows for a much more fluid growth trajectory. The founder is able to constantly pivot direction in response to market feedback, throughout the life of the business. Rather than exerting energy in building an immovable & inflexible model, and then staying squarely in that pre-defined box, a leadership team can reconfigure the business to remain relevant & responsive.
For those that may have difficulty escaping the claws of perfection, I’ve identified 4 ways perfection impedes our progress.
- It slows us down or stops us from moving through a milestone. The quest for perfection causes procrastination. We become so fixated on the perfect end-result that we don’t move forward until we are 100% there. When I wrote my book, “Built to SCALE,” I stayed focused on completion, rather than perfection. Ask any author how difficult it is to release a book, and they will tell you it is incredibly painful because we always have more to add or more to edit. It’s never really “finished” in our minds.
- Perfection causes us to question our own accomplishments and achievements. We become so focused on what we haven’t completed or what haven’t done well that we forget how much we really have accomplished. Sometimes we just have to pause and be in gratitude of all we have accomplished. We forget the struggle we endured to arrive at where we are. This is a self-destructive mindset.
- Perfection shifts our perspective from the journey to the end game. Focusing solely on the end-game or final deliverable impedes us from appreciating what is right in front of us. Suppose you never make it to your ending. Suppose you never achieve “perfection.” Will you still be able to look back and appreciate the good that came out of the journey?
- Perfection removes the margins of error, setting us up failure. Are you defining yourself solely by a score of 100%? If you achieve 90% of your goals, can you appreciate your success? The beauty of life exists in our shades of grey and in the fringes, not in life’s absolutes, and certainly not with only smooth edges. Life is messy and unpredictable. Very little will go exactly as you expect. I have so many friends looking for the “perfect” job or the “perfect” partner. They continue to dismiss so many opportunities that are right in front of them. Allow yourself some breathing room, rather than only accepting perfection. Total inflexibility severely narrows our choices.
Shifting Our Mindset: Embracing Imperfection
- Embrace progress. Create a sense of urgency about what you are trying to achieve. The quest for perfection can stall our momentum. If you have an idea, it does not have to be perfect for you to launch it! Put a deadline in place and move briskly to make it happen. Perfection is the enemy of progress.
- Remember that others are not evaluating you the way you evaluate yourself. We are always our own worst critics. And for those that criticize us more severely than we criticize ourselves (which is hard), ignore them. (Reread my article on how to manage the three types of haters in your life). They aren’t in your corner. People generally see the accomplishment, not what’s missing.
- Embrace “draft mode.” Draft mode makes everything a little lighter, a little less serious. Most of the time, if you make a mistake, you can fix it. It won’t be the end of the world. You can change your mind. You can move a little to the left or right. For major pushes, and in circumstances where people are depending on you, have confidence that you will do what’s necessary to make it work. For the smaller things, however, move briskly.
- Remember to enjoy the journey! Refer back to my column about Rule #6. We must be mindful to appreciate how we are spending every day, not just the culmination of what we are working to achieve. Our endings are unwritten. As much as we plan, and as much as we think we know how things will turn out, they are not decided. Our time is limited and precious. The culmination may or may not deliver the happiness you have attached to the outcome. Your greatest potential for happiness lies in the journey, and in the little things leading up to the end.
I hope this perfectly framed the concept of imperfection for you. Good luck, and celebrate the wins!
Why You Must Have That Difficult Conversation – And How To Do It
There are four words that, when we hear them, we stop in our tracks because we know they are going to be followed by a lot of other words we may not want to hear. This happens in both our personal and our professional lives. Those four words are…. “WE HAVE TO TALK.”
Did you just feel a shiver run up your spine when you read them? Did they sneak their way off of the screen, and grip your throat a bit?
I don’t know who is stressed out more by these words… the person initiating the conversation, or the person on the receiving end.
If you are the initiator, you know you’ve been carrying around this conversation for a while now. You’ve role-played how it will go, what the reactions will be, and how you are hoping it will end. You’ve determined when and where you should have the conversation. And, you’ve come up with lots of reasons why you shouldn’t have it.
If you are the recipient, first you may try to brace yourself for what’s coming with some mindfulness techniques, like deep breathing, or you may quickly tell yourself it can’t be that bad. Or maybe you will immediately launch into a defensive mode. Or, maybe you’ll say, “this isn’t a good time,” or you’ll run.
Putting all of the emotional baggage aside that accompanies the conversation, here is the one reason you must have this conversation.
IT WON’T GO AWAY BY ITSELF.
When it’s time for a difficult conversation, at least one of three things happen:
1: The person who needs to talk keeps it inside. It grows, and festers, and takes on many additional lives of its own, until the angst or anger associated with the original conversation overtakes the actual topic.
2: The person who needs to talk talks to others. Rather than having the conversation with the person they need to talk with, they seek out advice and support from others, and fuel the issue with input from people that may or may not be understanding the entire story (and are definitely not hearing multiple perspectives).
3: The person seeks out the other person (the target) to have the conversation. And, usually it doesn’t go nearly as badly as they’ve fabricated in their minds. Although, sometimes it does go badly. But when that happens, at least it’s over, and the people can address the elephant in the room.
A Self-Assessment Checklist
How can you prep and move through this conversation with as little drama as possible? Here is a checklist of questions for you to answer prior to having the conversation.
- What are your objectives for this conversation?
- What do you believe is the other person’s position in this conversation? What reactions are you anticipating?
- Based on your history with this person, how effective are they at pushing your buttons, or triggering you? How safe do you feel with them? Based on this information, how can you pre-empt triggers?
- How are your feelings about this conversation impacting how you will show up? I remember learning that the mere act of inserting a thermometer into a glass of water to measure the temperature changes the water temperature. Similarly, your disposition in initiating the conversation will impact how the conversation plays out. What is your personal temperature?
- How have you contributed to the situation leading up to this point? Have you owned that? Have you expressed that to the other person?
- Can you approach this conversation without blame or ego, and focus only on solutions?
- How aware are you of your own body language? Can you do a body-language check prior to the conversation to ensure you are not projecting a defensive or offensive message?
Alternative conversation starters
Perhaps you can diffuse the situation with a softer opening. One of these may work:
“I could really use your help with a challenge I am having.”
“I would love your perspective on this situation.”
“Can you please help me to understand something?”
It is also a good idea to schedule the conversation, even if it’s for 15 minutes (although it’s important to not rush, so that nothing goes unsaid or unresolved). This way, both participants are completely prepared, focused, and present. No one feels they have been cornered into a conversation they were not prepared to have. Difficult conversations always flow best when both parties feel safe to have the exchange.
Alternatively, when the conversation is concluding, both parties should feel that they have had ample time to express, and that they have been heard. Something like this may work:
“I really appreciate you having this conversation with me. Is there anything else you would like to discuss?”
“Are we good now?”
I hope these pointers can take the edge off of your next difficult conversation. It probably won’t be nearly as challenging as you anticipate. And just in case it is, you’ll be fully prepared to manage it from beginning to end.
2 Steps to Setting Healthy Boundaries with Your Client Base
I’ve had many conversations with business owners recently regarding the stress their clients are infusing into their lives.
At the risk of sounding unsympathetic, in each situation I’ve suggested that they’ve allowed these conditions to occur.
In both our personal and professional lives, we operate within a framework of “unconscious acceptance.” We communicate to the world what we will and will not tolerate from others. People will only treat us as poorly as we allow.
With our business, here are the 2 steps we must take to set healthy boundaries, which will benefit both us and our clients.
- Define your “avatar.” What is the detailed profile of your ideal client? It’s important to get as specific as possible regarding industry, age, demographic, their specific need, their preference of low-cost versus high-value, etc.
- Define what you personally require to work with a client. Do you want to avoid travel? Do you require specific payment arrangements? What is your ideal work arrangement? For me, my two most important criteria are:
– Do I like them? I’m going to be investing my valuable time in helping them achieve success. We will be spending a lot of time together. It’s my personal rule to really like everyone I spend time with, and to believe in their business model.- Are they coachable? Many of the prospects that contact me want to work with me, but after further exploration, are not willing or able to do the work to make difficult changes. They may be reluctant to evaluate their executive team to determine if they have the right people in the right seats, or analyze their client base to determine if they should move upmarket.
Even if I like them and believe in their businesses, and I can clearly envision a path to growth, if they are resisting change I can’t help them. People must want growth & progress for themselves more than we want it for them.
I have additional criteria for specific situations. For example, many partners contact me to help them with their partnership. I greatly enjoy working with healthy partnerships to clearly define roles and build growth strategies. However, I am not a marriage therapist. I’m not interested in playing the role of a conflict mediator when partners are fighting.
No is a Complete Sentence.
When a prospect doesn’t align with your criteria, say No. When we say no to the good, we make room for the great.
Remember that we all have a limited amount of time & energy to devote to clients. We can’t say yes to everyone. Ideally we reserve our Yes for those that share our values systems, and where we can make a transformational impact without infusing a lot of stress into our lives.
When saying no, be quick and be honest. Integrity must always drive our communication and engagement. It also keeps the door open for future collaboration.
Setting Boundaries with Existing Clients. It’s also important to set boundaries with existing clients. While we want to make sure our clients are happy, we also must protect our time and energy. It’s OK to set boundaries while on vacation, to limit phone calls to a certain part of the day, or to rein in a scope that seems to be going beyond what we agreed.
Requests to Pick Your Brain.
I receive dozens of breakfast, coffee, and lunch invitations from well-meaning business owners and executives who want to pick my brain for guidance. I decline most of them because:
- We must be protective of our time, and place our paying clients first.
- It’s disrespectful and unethical to my paying clients to give away my services for free.
- One 60-minute conversation will be a band-aid to a larger problem. One-off conversations don’t align with my objective of creating a transformational impact.
I do appreciate the courage and trust to reach out for help, and I always acknowledge and honor this.
Therefore, I offer a 15-minute Skype session option to address one need, as long as they provide me goals/objectives for our 15 minutes together. Within that time, I can direct the conversation to determine if it benefits both of us to have a second conversation.
Boundaries help us to preserve our energy sources so that we can perform at 100% in the most synergistic situations. Take ownership for your client engagement experience. By raising your level of unconscious acceptance, you create opportunities to serve your most ideal clients at your highest level of performance.
Wishing you success in aligning with your most ideal clients as you move to the next level.
My 8 Wishes For You as We Turn the Calendar
This is a re-print of one of my most popular blogs that I first published in December 2011.
The end of the year is always a time of introspection & reflection for what has past, and hope & anticipation for what is to come. We attach so many expectations to ourselves, to others, and to our circumstances. As we prepare to turn the calendar page to welcome 2016, these are my wishes for you:
Courage. I wish you the gift of courage to make difficult decisions. Courage to pursue a road less traveled if it is where you need to go at this point in time. Courage to submerge yourself in sadness without hesitation when your soul requires it. And courage to claim your own happiness no matter how much others may resist your choices.
Clarity. I wish you the gift of clarity to see things as they truly are, rather than to see them as the way others see them, or as you wish them to be. Clarity of what’s right for you, even when it doesn’t align with the popular vote, or when it isn’t what you want. Clarity to see the inner strength and beauty that others see in you. Clarity of the lessons that invariably accompany our challenges and the ability to view our challenges as learning opportunities and teachable moments.
Cleansing. I wish you the gift of cleansing and detoxification on a regular basis… physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. The ability to cleanse yourself of toxic people and of negative energy by consistently re-evaluating who is close to you, adjusting your inner circle to meet your needs, and spending time with those that really matter. Cleansing of your mind & body through self care… yoga, meditation, and exercise. Cleansing of your soul through gut-wrenching cries; cleansing and strengthening of the spirit through love-filled, joyful laughter.
Calm/Quiet…even in the midst of Chaos. I wish you the ability to find stillness and calm in the midst of chaos… to be able to embrace faith over fear in situations that shake you to your core. I wish you the ability to block out the noise and embrace the quiet to hear the stillness and feel the signs that will inevitably lead you down your path.
Connection. I wish you an authentic, genuine, benevolent connection to yourself, and like-minded connections to others that bring beauty and color to your world.
Compassion. I wish you the ability to bestow compassion on others, and the openness to receive, appreciate, and be strengthened by compassion from others.
Compass. I wish you a strong inner compass to guide you through the difficult parts of your journey when your footing is unsteady, and the direction is murky.
Contentment. From my heart I wish you contentment…. A feeling that comes from deep inside your soul that enables you to be grateful for where you are in your life, at this precise moment in time… and not feel the need for more.
Finally, I wish you serenity that comes from the ability to reflect on and accept where you’ve been, the ability to practice self-forgiveness, and the ability to have faith in the journey ahead. I wish you the ability to live not by your fears of what may or may not happen, but rather by your hopes and dreams.And, above all, I wish you healing, happiness and peace in 2016.With love & gratitude for your support.
10 Cardinal Rules for Working with Friends
Ask any business owner if they’ve ever worked with friends, and you will likely get a yes. How they answer you (with a scowl or with a smile), will determine if it turned out well.
One of my clients is WAKA, an 18-year old company that has put kickball and social sports for young professionals on the map. The three owners have been friends for more than two decades. They have mastered the art of “working with friends.” This doesn’t mean they haven’t experienced turmoil or conflict. In fact, one of my key roles in working with them was to help them move through some inertia that was stalling their continued growth. They have aggressive growth goals over the next 3-5 years, and decision-by-consensus was slowing momentum.
Nevertheless, these three life-long friends have managed to maintain and strengthen their brotherly bonds as they’ve built their business. So how have they done it? They’ve followed what I have identified as the 10 cardinal rules for working with friends.
1: Alignment of core values regarding life and business. It would seem natural that our friends would share our values, but this isn’t always the case. If we’re going into business with anyone, there must be alignment of values. If you are a high-value service provider but your friend is focused on being a low-cost service provider, you’re not driven by the same outcomes. If you are a workaholic, but your friend is focused on work-life balance, you are misaligned regarding focus. Misalignment of values is a non-starter.
2: Clearly defined roles & responsibilities. What is expected of each person? You would never hire a stranger without clearly defined roles & responsibilities. Clearly spell out what you expect of anyone you work with, and what they can expect of you.
3:No exceptions to any rules: All restrictions/processes apply. When I started my first company Information Experts 20 years ago, I hired a friend as a sub-contractor. She was required to sign a non-compete and a non-disclosure agreement, like all of my subcontractors. If I showed favoritism, this would have set a precedent that rules only apply to certain people in my company. Sadly, she violated both documents. She stole my content, and solicited work directly from my client. Again, I had to set a precedent with this situation. Our attorney issued a cease-and-desist letter, demanding that she cease solicitation. My client broke ties with her, I fired her, and that was the end of the friendship. This goes back to Rule #1: Alignment of core values. She valued money more than our friendship.
4: Respect of financial arrangements. The mixing of money and friendships, especially in business, is a potential landmine. Should you decide to work with a friend, do whatever is necessary to minimize financial friction. Stay away from loans and promisory notes. Pay your friend on time, in accordance with the agreed upon terms. Working with a friend is not permission to take financial advantage.
5: Respect of the value and worth of each party. This past week, I had conversations with two good friends that own businesses, who are experts in their fields, that feel disrespected, devalued, and taken for granted by friends they’ve worked with. They both chose to charge their friends significantly discounted rates for their services. This is a terrible idea, and almost always backfires. A true friend would not expect another friend to decrease her market rate, which is essentially communicating, “I don’t think you are worth what you are charging others.” Conversely, the friend that discounts her rate ends up feeling as if she’s giving away her services. “I felt bad” or “I felt guilty” is almost always the outcome.
6: Establishment of a way out of the business arrangement. Every business arrangement requires an “out” clause, and this situation is no different. Discuss ahead of time the possibility that one may want to terminate the arrangement. Should that occur, exit gracefully and graciously. Don’t make it personal, and don’t take it personally.
7: Respect of confidentiality. As with any business relationship, do not discuss your business with others. Don’t share proprietary company information, don’t discuss the relationship challenges, don’t gossip. Treat the business part of your relationship with utmost respect and confidentiality.
8: Ability to have difficult conversations. Difficult conversations are stressful. Especially when we blend our personal & professional lives, there is a lot at stake if a difficult conversation goes wrong. However, not having the conversation is even worse. Trust that you can have a respectful, constructive dialogue, and make it happen to move past any feelings of resentment or anger that may be building.
9: Care and feeding of your friendship outside of the business. To preserve the friendship, set aside time to just be friends. Grab lunch, go to a movie or a museum, or text/email/call with no business agenda – just to say hello.
10: Finally, Remember Rule #6 from my last column. Don’t take yourself so seriously. It’s just business. Businesses come and go, but our most important friendships endure.
A Note about mentorship, service donations, and trades
We all have much to contribute to others! Mentorship and pro-bono or discounted services are wonderful ways to help others move forward, especially when we can help socially impactful organizations fulfill their missions. When we agree to mentor someone, or donate our services to a non-profit, we still must spell out the terms so that both parties know what to expect. The only thing missing is the exchange of money.
I have done many successful trades for service as well. Again, spell out all terms & conditions so that there are no surprises. These arrangements are still business relationships.
In Other SC News….
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Successful Culture accepts applications for its TransformU coaching program on a rolling basis. All one-on-one coaching spots are currently filled, however, we will open more spots in 2nd quarter. The TransformU coaching program is only for CEOs and leaders seeking a high level of accountability, who are ready to build the right foundation, and move to the next level of growth. All engagements follow a customized road map to move the client from current state to desired state. A mandatory skype interview and online assessment will determine if the TransformU program is a fit. You can learn more about the TransformU program on the Successful Culture website here. Please email me at [email protected] with any questions.
The Annual SC Customer Appreciation Luncheon Was Amazing!
I recently honored about 40 SC clients at our annual Customer Appreciation Luncheon. I spoke about the gifts that each client brings to the world every day in their own business accomplishments, and expressed my gratitude for their trust in my leadership to move them forward to the next levels of growth. Everyone made important connections too! I can’t wait for our Spring community gathering. Will you be engaging Successful Culture to help with your growth, and joining us too?
Embracing the Spirit of Summer at Work
Remember the excitement as a child when the summer months rolled around? When that last school bell rang, a sense of adventure and freedom was upon us as we looked forward to warm, sunny days. As adults, this desire is still within us – but our adult responsibilities get in the way. Sitting at our desks, attending countless meetings, all while gazing outside at blue skies can be a bit depressing. Therefore, it is not surprising that during the summer, employee motivation, job satisfaction, and productivity drop.
How can we combat this decline? Is it possible to balance the freedom of summer with the demands of work? The answer is…YES! Here are a few ideas…
Encourage Time Off
Do you have an employee who is not taking time off during the summer? If so, encourage them to do so – even if it is just a day or two. According to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics , 50% of American workers do not use the paid vacation time they are given. Taking time off helps us reduce stress, clear our minds, and return ready to take on the world (or at least that big client project!).
Promote Work Flexibility
Adding a little flexibility into how work gets done is a great way to embrace the summer spirit. 74% of employers offer some type of telecommuting arrangement, which is a great way to promote work flexibility.
Host Family Events
Consider a companywide picnic, field day, or trip to the local baseball game. Showing that you value family time positions the organization in a positive light for the significant others – which comes in handy when you ask employees to work late nights!
Today’s employees value organizations that embrace a work environment that supports employee well-being. Having a culture that promotes work-life balance and flexibility can result in a happy and healthy workforce – and a solid bottom line. Get out there and enjoy the sunshine with your employees…the child inside all of them will love you for it!
Reach out to us at https://www.successfulculture.com/contact/ to discover how we can help you design a balanced work-life culture, the supports the whole employee. Our SCALE Academy is the perfect place to start! Building cultures where everyone feels valued is what we do best.